If you say “convenience store,” you might think that Japanese convenience stores are the same as all those around the world, but in reality you can’t find Japanese-style convenience stores anywhere else.
The first main characteristic of a Japanese convenience store is that they are everywhere (more than 50,000 stores) and they are always open. In Japan this is taken for granted, but in other countries many stores close on the weekends or close early on the weekdays.
The second characteristic is that they have a huge variety of good quality products. There are never any empty shelves nor can you say that the food is disgusting.
The third characteristic is that not only can you buy things, there are a lot of services offered there too. You can ship and receive packages there, there is often an ATM, a copier/printer machine, and you can also pay your bills there. On top of that, some of them offer house-cleaning and dry-cleaning services.
This is why even though they’re called the same “convenience stores” as those overseas, Japanese convenience stores have different characteristics and often receive praise from foreigners who visit and live in Japan.
Why do they have these characteristics?
The first reason is to seek the highest convenience for the consumer. The high quality of Japanese products and services is famous. The result of the convenience store management seeking the highest possible quality for the consumer created the reality to have a readily-available, always open store with a huge variety of products.
The second is that it can be considered that Japanese convenience stores aim to play a role more than just a retail store. While they would be able to do fine business-wise as a simple retail store, instead they aim to be a refuge for the many Japanese people that live in residential areas. Because they developed with the idea to be as convenient as possible, store management as a whole developed towards convenience for the area’s community.
This is how Japanese convenience stores developed their unique characteristics but the implementation of trying to be everywhere has saturated the domestic market. Because of that, the convenience store industry has advanced from a domestic market into an international one. Japanese convenience stores have created a high-quality, multi-faceted convenience, and as they aim towards the international market, they may continue to accomplish new advancements in the industry.